Franz Kafka – The Trial

*The following information applies to an English hardcover edition. (the novel was originally published in German in 1925).*

Author: Franz Kafka
Translator: Richard Stokes

Title:  The Trial
Published: 2005
Publisher: Hesperus Press
Length: 210 pages
Genre: Philosophical literature
Target age: Adult
Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
Rating: —-
Challenges: Global | 100+
Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

I’m not giving this a rating because (and I cringe to say this) it totally went over my head. This is the first time I’ve ever read a book that I didn’t really understand at all! I know I didn’t not like it but I have no idea what to think. I believe I set expectations too high for this novel and for myself. After hearing so much about Kafka (and the term ‘kafkaesque’) and falling in love with Kafka on the Shore, I thought upon finally reading one of Kafka’s greatest works I would have some sort of philosophical epiphany. Didn’t happen, obviously; that’s an unreal expectation for any work of art, but that’s the kind of daydream I have: that after reading a great work of literature I will have some sort of revelation. Perhaps it’s because I was so focused on ‘getting something’ out of this text that I didn’t get anything out of it. There are so many ways you can interpret the metaphor of The Trial that I didn’t know what it could mean for me and instead of focusing on the book and thinking critically about all I was reading, interpreting the story for myself, I just kind of finished it and left myself in the dark. In a few years time I will tackle this again and hopefully I will have greater success. All that being said…I have inklings of ideas regarding what this novel is about, for me. But they’re just that, inklings, swirling bits of thoughts that don’t really amount to much. Hopefully those inklings will grow upon a reread in the future.
A comment not wholly related to the text itself…I have an issue with reading a work that the author clearly did not want being read. It makes me squirm and feel uncomfortable. As I writer myself, I cringe at the thought of my stories being widely published after my death. There were reasons why Kafka didn’t want his work out there, his unfinished and unpolished work. I can’t help but wonder what he would have done had he properly finished The Trial and I also wonder what he would think of its success and interpretations today. I feel sort of like a child sneaking a cookie from the sacred cookie jar. Morals, gah. I would feel a whole lot better upon completing this book if Kafka had actually intended for it to be set loose on the world.